The group I am with teaching in Ethiopia visited an Orthodox Church and monastery yesterday. It was a visit revealing both the beauty and tragedy of Orthodox Christianity. I have studied Orthodox Christianity over the years and have a deep appreciation for the beauty that led to the liturgies they now have. Were it not for the Orthodox Church, we would not have settled major doctrines like the person and deity of Christ, or come up with concepts wrapped in a word like “Trinity.”
The Orthodox Church moved the Early Church into a deep understanding of Christ, the Spirit, and the canon of the New Testament.
Centuries of have layered on other practices, traditions, and cultural practices specific to each region. Superstitions abound. It is hard to take in all of it.
But as I was taking all that in and thinking about how tragic it can be that centuries layer on practices and superstitions that cover up the beauty of Christ, I was reminded of something else.
The American Church hasn’t faired much better. And we’ve done it in record time. We have layered on entertainment, superstition, chaos, politics, and more so that the beauty of Jesus is buried under layers of trying to find out just who Jesus is.
We have concerts, not worship services. We have talks, not sermons. We may dabble in a verse here and there, but the whole counsel of Scripture gets lost in trying to make sure we get people in and out of church in 55 minutes or less… and leave that to be their “dose” for the week.
Both are tragedies, in my view.
In all of our cultural coverings, we work so hard to make Jesus “attractive,” his beauty gets lost.